It is His presence. There is a throne, a focal point where God then reveals His majestic sovereign glory, but at the same time there is a temple that is as infinite as the whole of heaven itself. And all of the presence of God and the Lamb, therefore, constitutes the temple. These chapters tell us about what the Bible calls the new heaven and the new earth, the eternal state. Now, let me give you a little bit of a perspective. We hit on this two weeks ago but I want to remind you of it.
We said that we have a present universe. That present universe exists as we know it, going out all the stellar bodies, stars, moons, planets and so forth. That is the present heaven. Down here is the present earth. Surrounding the sphere of our expanding universe is the infinite abode of infinite God, as limitless as God is Himself.
Someday, God is going to literally engulf the whole universe and turn it into the final heaven. Right now, we have an old earth and an old heaven. They have been touched by sin. They have been marred by the Fall.
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In fact, the earth is the dominion of Satan, under the dominion of Satan. The earth is populated by fallen men. Outer space is populated by fallen demons. And only the third heaven is pristine pure flawless. But in the recreation there will be a new heaven and a new earth; that is to say the third heaven will literally engulf the first and second heaven and the earth into the final eternal state, and from earth on out to infinity will all be the heaven of heavens. There will just be one little pocket somewhere called hell.
But apart from that, everything will engulf itself in the final state called the new heavens and the new earth. Now, that is not a new thought. In fact, that is a thought that the prophets of the Old Testament were given by God. Chapter 66 gives us a similar perspective in Isaiah. Verse And so, there are a couple of references in the Old Testament to the new heaven and the new earth. So, this is something that God had promised long ago. There will be an eternal earth. There will be an eternal universe.
There will be an eternal heaven. Now, we come to Revelation and we have a description of it. The history of the earth is over. The final great holocaust on the earth has been fought. The Battle of Armageddon is finished.
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Satan is taken captive and sent to hell. The 1, reign of Jesus Christ is over. All of the ungodly of all of the ages are dispensed into hell. And with the dispensing of Satan and all the ungodly into this place called hell, nothing is left but to then create the new heaven and the new earth. The judgment on sin is final, and we know come to the eternal state. The millennial earthly reign of Christ is over; the great white throne has accomplished its purpose as God has sentenced the unrighteous and Satan to eternal hell.
The whole universe then, except hell wherever it is, is then dissolved into the new heavens and the new earth. All remembrance of the first one will vanish. Cursed is the ground, it says in Genesis. Even the heavens as we know them have been polluted by sin. We live in a polluted universe. Now, God gave us an illustration of this. Second Peter chapter 3, turn to it in your Bibles, 2 Peter chapter 3.
In 2 Peter chapter 3, perhaps we could look to verse 4 as a starting point. Why should we believe that Jesus is coming, for ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation. There never has been a judgment on the earth, why would there be one now? Prior to the Genesis flood, recorded in the sixth chapter of Genesis, there was a vapor that covered the earth, the heavens was a certain form. There was a vapor. There was no rain. The vapor filtered out the ultra-violet rays that penetrate now to the earth. People lived a long time. Animals lived a long time.
As you know, they lived into the nine hundreds of years because there were none of those ultra-violet rays penetrating through that filter of the water canopy that surrounded the earth. The earth then flourished with vegetation unlike anything we would ever comprehend today. But God, because of sin, broke up the old heavens and broke up the old earth. The water came out of the sky, burst out of the deeps and drowned all of the human race. And so, what the writer Peter is saying is that is a picture, a small picture, of how God can bring judgment through the renovation of the heavens and the earth.
But God says that there will be a day when He will renovate the whole thing again, only this time far greater than anything experienced in the Noahic flood. The whole thing is going to be destroyed. Look at verse 6. He says the world at one time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth, by His word, are being reserved for fire. Once God destroyed the earth by water, the next time by fire during the Day of Judgment, and destruction of ungodly men. The elements will be destroyed with intense heat. And the earth and its works will be burned up.
The whole thing recreated, the whole thing. Of course, the discovery of the atom has given us the understanding that this can in fact happen. We have created nuclear bombs, split the atom, and unleashed the potential for unbelievable destruction. We sit on the crust of a fireball.
The 25, miles of circumference around the earth, the 8, mile diameter is mostly molten flame. The atom has the capability to destroy the outside and the universe, the fire on the inside if unleashed could certainly destroy the earth and join in the conflagration. Just as God one time broke up the heavens and dumped the water, and then brought water up from the earth, He can bring fire down and fire up as well.
Inside the earth is a flaming boiling liquid lake of fire. We call that a what? A volcano. The earth then is a giant firebomb, whichever way you look at it. And God will unleash that fire power from inside and outside through atomic energy and destroy the whole of the universe. And He will make a new heaven and a new earth.
It means as to quality, not as to time. The quality is changed. So, the new heavens and the new earth will be like our newness, like our newness, better. Better, glorified, sinless, eternal. The new heaven that he mentions there in verse 1 will be released from former beauty to new beauty. And also he says a new earth. What will that be like? It will be a place where you can eat, because when Jesus came out of the grave, He ate. Now, you look at the earth today and you still see beautiful spots on our earth, carpeted with green and flowers, waving with full crops, shady trees, snow-capped mountains, peaks, brooks, crystal streams.
And frankly, we can only imagine what the new heaven and the new earth would be like. No longer smarting under the curse of sin.
No longer being torn by steel to yield up its wealth. No longer infested with thorns and briars. No weeds in your garden. Eternal soil never cut with graves, sod never moistened with blood, never stained with tears. An earth whose forever hills flow with salvation, rivers, and whose eternal valleys know only the sweet paradise of God. I was listening to a tape by Al Martin. We had him preach in our church some time ago and enjoyed him so much. He was waxing eloquent thinking of heaven. It will be the new heaven and the new earth wherein righteousness and righteousness alone has its home.
What blessed prospects. Go back to verse 1. The first heaven and the first earth have passed away, he says. And there is no longer any sea, or no more sea. There was a generation of people living in that land before them that we know as the Phoenicians who were by trade sailors, the great sailors of the world.
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The Jews were not. They were an agricultural people. And to be honest with you, they had a healthy fear of the sea. To the Jew, the sea spoke of turbulence, agitation, violence, mystery, restlessness. It even spoke of separation. Some think the idea of no more sea has reference to national boundaries. Whether it means nothing to fear, nothing to be afraid of, or whether it means nothing to separate you from other nations, and perhaps it means both. Nothing to cause you fear. Nothing to be afraid of. Nothing to separate you from other people.
He says I saw it not being created but coming down out of heaven from God. Now, the heaven where God is, is the third heaven, so we can surmise that God has prepared up there this New Jerusalem. But, it will already be prepared by then. Now, there have been three Jerusalems: the historical Jerusalem, there is a millennial Jerusalem, and then the eternal Jerusalem which I think is the capital city of eternity.
It is the city whose builder and maker is God. It is the city for which Abraham really longed and looked. What does that mean? Just beauty, splendor, glory. I mean, what greater way to express beauty than adorned as a bride, emphasizing certainly its bride character. It may take place at a special banquet place in the New Jerusalem. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. People cannot be disassociated from the place. This is the bride city because this is where the church is.
And frankly, cities are designated in ancient times often by the character of the people who are in them. Now, the question then comes: is this only the occupancy place of the church? Although it is uniquely the bride city and the church gives it that unique character, I believe that all of the saints of all the ages are going to be there.
Why then single out the church? Because this book is written to the church. So, John looks and as he looks he sees a new heaven and a new earth. The new heaven, the new earth have been completely recreated. And then he sees coming out of the third heaven into that new heaven and new earth this bride city, so characterized in splendor because of the church that is in it, which will be meeting with its bridegroom, Christ, forever and forever and forever.
And I only point up to you again: this means it probably already existed and is now simply incorporated into the final state. But, I believe it was already in existence and I think maybe Jesus is right now getting it ready for the time when it comes down. Now, why a city? Is it a city like we know a city? Well, probably not. It will be different, surely. Not like we know a city. It will just be a different kind of city. But those people thought of the city because they were nomads who had no city. And the people who wandered in the wilderness saw in a city safety, peace, joy, fellowship, culture.
The Jewish people who were wandering and wandering and wandering wanted a city of their own. What a thought. All the redeemed gathered in a bustling city. What does a city mean? Harmony, mutuality, responsibility, sharing of duties. And yet perfect oneness, nothing to mar or interrupt pure fellowship. Can you imagine pure fellowship? Can you imagine a society of people where no one ever gets mad?
Where no one ever does anything wrong? Or no one ever says anything wrong? Where no one ever thinks anything wrong? Can you imagine a society where everyone gets along absolutely perfect? Can you imagine a society where everyone loves everyone like God loves everyone? Where everything is absolutely perfect? Where you get along with everybody perfectly forever and ever?
Where you have perfect love for perfect people always? Now, how exciting that is if you really love the brotherhood. I love the fellowship of believers. And I would love the fellowship of perfect believers, even more than I love the fellowship of imperfect ones. The epitome of fellowship. Marvelous thought. How exciting if you love the brethren. And what makes it really special is verse 3, God is there, uninterrupted and eternal fellowship with Him. Just think about heaven. Think about how hard it is to get along with people here.
We love socialization. We love fellowship. Carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. And the details, dear friends, are absolutely mindboggling. Talk about a tour brochure, boy, could you put one together on this place. That is the essence of the eternal heaven.
What a statement. And then John tries to describe it. When I was a kid I used to go, this is the closest I can get, folks. I used to go roller skating in Pasadena. And they had this crystal thing hanging in the middle. Have you ever been to one of those? I was at a skating rink. This crystal thing with all those little pieces of glass, and they shoot lights at it and the stuff is flashing all over everywhere.
That, in some small mundane mean way, may express the essence of what John is trying to communicate. He sees coming down out of heaven into this eternal state this sparkling crystal diamond flashing thing out of which is splattering the very glory of the blazing essence of the nature of God.
And the infinite splashing light of the glory of God literally covers the infinite universe. Sparkling breathtaking beauty. And then he goes from its glory to its design. And this is interesting. And the names were written on them which are those of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel.
There were three gates on the east, and three gates on the north, and three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had 12 foundation stones and on them were the 12 names of the 12 Apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gate, and its wall, and the city is laid out as a square.
He measured the city with a rod. Its length and width and height are all equal. He measured its walls, 72 yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The angels use the same measurements we do. Stop and take me through this a little bit. Go back to verse It had a great and high wall.
You say why? But it did. If God wanted to put a great and high wall, He can put a great and high wall. But Ateret Cohanim is much more than a promoter of religious studies. It is dedicated to helping Jews buy up Arab properties in the Old City and East Jerusalem in furtherance of what Luria calls the "physical and spiritual redemption" of the city. The complex and violent history of this city has filled countless books.
There is no dispute that Jews were its earliest inhabitants, but the presence of Muslims and Christians also stretches back over multiple centuries. More recently, at the end of the war following the declaration of the State of Israel in , Jerusalem was divided, with the Old City on the Jordanian-controlled eastern side of the armistice line, known as the Green Line. The Jewish population within the ancient stone walls sank to zero. Jews returned to live close to their revered site of the Western Wall and Israel declared the "reunified, indivisible" city of Jerusalem to be its "eternal" capital.
Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem has never been recognised by the international community. The Palestinians want Arab-dominated East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, but Israel is determined to resist any division or sharing of the city; hence the state's policy of establishing Jewish "neighbourhoods" — settlements, to the rest of the world — in areas across the pre Green Line.
Some of these settlements are big developments, housing thousands of Israeli Jews in modern apartment blocks. Others are tiny pockets of hard-liners in the heart of Palestinian communities, where the presence of settlers and their security guards causes friction and animosity. According to Luria, the organisation "facilitates purchases" but does not buy property itself. This is disputed by its critics, who say it runs a network of front companies in an attempt to disguise its involvement in acquisitions. Luria denies that Ateret Cohanim uses front companies but concedes that buyers sometimes use Palestinian intermediaries.
He can't openly be a party to the sale in some circumstances. So Arab middlemen are sometimes used, and legal somersaults are performed. Not in every deal, but when necessary. The organisation's current targets include properties near Herod's Gate, a Palestinian community centre near Lion's Gate, and homes near the Little Western Wall, just below the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, say Palestinian activists.
Why shouldn't we return — especially if we're paying good money? Jews should be able to buy here, just like in London or New York. We are the indigenous people in this land. But if he doesn't like it, there is no shortage of other countries with Muslim majorities.
If they can't accept us, that's their problem. Why should I apologise or feel bad? Despite being loquacious on the rights of Jews to the land, Luria is reticent on the funding of Ateret Cohanim. I ask him if Irving Moskowitz , an octogenarian US bingo tycoon whose eponymous foundation funds settler activities in East Jerusalem and who is widely reported as giving millions of dollars to Ateret Cohanim, is one of his backers. Support also comes from the state of Israel, not least in the form of security for the settlers. A few metres from the Najibs' home, at the junction of El-Wad street and Via Dolorosa, the Israeli border police maintain a daily presence, routinely demanding to see Palestinians' identity papers, where they live and where they are going.
Meanwhile, in the narrow alleys and hidden courtyards of the Muslim Quarter, the daily grind of life is worsening little by little. In the past 30 years its population has doubled, exacerbating already-high levels of overcrowding and poverty. A report on the Palestinian economy published earlier this year by the United Nations said housing density in the Muslim Quarter was almost three times as high as in the Jewish Quarter, and many Palestinian homes lacked running water and a proper sewage system.
Garbage collection is sporadic in these back streets, and there are almost no open spaces for children to play in. The use of child labour is widespread; the dropout rates from schools are high. Domestic violence and drug abuse is on the rise. A major reason for the migration into the Old City is an Israeli requirement for Palestinians to prove that Jerusalem is their "centre of life" in order for them to keep their valued residency rights in the city, giving greater access to jobs, education and healthcare.
More than 7, Palestinians had Jerusalem residency rights revoked between and ; faced with such a threat, thousands more moved from suburbs and villages outside Jerusalem back into the city — including the Old City — to secure their identity papers. On top of this, says the UN, Palestinians in the Old City are "caught between the frontlines of interaction with Israeli settlers and authorities on a daily basis and the frontlines of a struggle to preserve and assert Palestinian cultural and political identity and its Islamic and Christian roots.
This has entailed a growing sense of siege and conflict for indigenous Palestinian residents, who perceive their lifestyles, livelihoods and social cohesion to be at risk in the discordant climate reigning in the Old City, with religious fervour easily degenerating into communal tensions. Luria dismisses such a picture. OK, it is not necessarily beautiful puppy love, but it is basic coexistence, which is the best you can hope for in a place as volcanic as Jerusalem.
Unfortunately some Arabs have not come to terms with having Jews live next door to them — Arabs who in general have a problem living in a national Jewish homeland.